How Did We Get So Fat? And Why the F-Factor Diet Is a Long-Term Solution
Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat.
-socrates (469 b.c.-399 b.c.)
You notice it at the beach.
You observe it in the fans at sporting events.
A quick look around the mall and there is no denying it: Americans are fatter than ever.
Currently, 70 percent of American adults are overweight, and half of them are obese. Yet merely three decades ago, less than 50 percent of the American population was overweight. As the years passed, somehow our waistlines kept expanding. It wouldn't be such a big deal if the problem were simply aesthetic. But excess weight correlates with increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, infertility, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and many forms of cancer. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported in 2004 that being overweight could soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. We clearly have reason to worry.
A recent survey published in the National Institute of Public Health publication reports that, in the United States on any given day, 44 percent of men and almost 66 percent of women are trying to lose weight. Last year alone, Americans spent billions of dollars on weight-loss products, health club memberships, diet foods, liposuctions, and gastric bypass operations. And where did investments in these supposed panaceas get us? Despite our attempts to lose weight, this country's population is currently the heaviest it has ever been. Our individual weight problems have become a national crisis.
After low-fat diets failed to put an end to the epidemic of obesity, low-carb diets appeared to be the solution to Americans' struggle with weight. We tried diets like Atkins and South Beach, and in doing so, cut out bread, fruit, milk, yogurt, and even vegetables in order to whittle down our waistlines. But after a decade of low-carb eating, the truth remains: Americans are fatter than ever.
The problem with low-carb diets is the same as with low-fat diets, and with the numerous other failed diets of the past: their focus is on eliminating foods in order to lose weight. Whether you are cutting out fat or carbohydrates, the result is that you end up craving the foods that have become taboo. Who wants to feel deprived of their favorite foods in order to maintain a desired weight? A life without bagels for breakfast, pasta at Italian restaurants, or rice with your Chinese food? That's crazy! And that is also why most diets are temporary.
How Did We Get So Fat?
The advent and growth of industrialization, jumbo portion sizes, and fad diets produced a predictable, understandable, and inevitable consequence-an epidemic of obesity and diet-related diseases.
You might equate industrialization with advancements in engineering, economy, and human resources. While sounding promising, industrialization applied to food processing has negatively affected Americans' nutrition.
Before industrialization, whole grains were left whole. Breads and rice were brown; fruits and vegetables were eaten just the way they came out of the ground or off the tree. These foods were nutritious, rich in vitamins, and full of fiber. Now, however, our supermarkets stock white bread, sweetened fruit drinks, and instant mashed potatoes-the legacy of agricultural industrialization that has left us in a fiber deficit.
The absence of fiber in Americans' diets is a major risk factor for weight gain. Despite the American Dietetic Association recommending that Americans eat 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day, the average American currently eats only 15 grams of fiber a day. Not eating enough fiber leads people to feel hungry and to overeat throughout the day.
Snacking contributes to one-fourth of Americans' daily caloric intake. And when we snack, what do we choose? Chips, cookies, crackers, sweetened beverages, and frozen desserts, all of which contain virtually no fiber. People who eat these foods to try to satisfy their appetites only find themselves hungry again soon after. Diets based on such refined foods create a vicious cycle of eating and hunger all day long.
To add insult to injury, refined foods are available everywhere, all of the time. Walk down the cookie or snack-chip aisles in your supermarket, and you find hundreds of choices. Delis, food courts, and vending machines present the opportunity to snack around the clock. Gas stations used to sell only gas-now they have been remodeled to house a food market inside. Going to the gas station no longer means just filling up your tank; it now is an opportunity to fill up your belly. An increase in convenience has provoked a shift to frequent "grazing"-eating small but cumulatively hefty snacks, as opposed to regular meals.
As technological advances have made food ever more varied, convenient, and tasty, the feeble willpower of the American public has been unable to cope. Most people know the rule of thermodynamics: calories in versus calories out. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Americans are not only eating more (the average American consumes 2,640 calories a day, up from 1,970 calories in 1978), we are also moving less.
Technology has not only made food more varied and convenient, it has almost completely removed natural physical exercise from most Americans' day-to-day lives. In the early nineteenth century, if you wanted ice cream, you would have to walk out to the pasture, milk the cow, carry the milk back to the farmhouse, mix in sugar and eggs, add salt to the ice, and churn the whole thing for hours until it froze. A person would burn a few hundred calories in the process. Now if people crave ice cream, they only have to walk to the refrigerator or drive to the nearest convenience store for a pint of Ben & Jerry's.
Cars, washing machines, elevators, escalators, and moving sidewalks at the airport have reduced physical exertion. Watching television for hours, sitting in front of a computer, and playing video games create the perfect recipe for weight gain.
Eating refined foods frequently and moving less are not the only problems. Ever-expanding food portions are also to blame.
Out-of-Control Portion Sizes
Advances in agriculture and farming followed industrialization. Never has food in this country been so abundant. This country produces 3,800 calories of food for every man, woman, and child every day-almost twice as many as most people need. The surplus of food translates into whopping portions at low prices, and Americans are eating them up. Larger portions seem to make consumers feel that they are getting their money's worth. And the food companies are responding.
With the exception of sliced white bread, the sizes of sodas, hamburgers, French fries, pizza slices, and other foods commonly available for immediate consumption exceed standard portions determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cookies, cooked pastas, muffins, steaks, and bagels exceeded USDA standards by 700 percent, 480 percent, 333 percent, 224 percent, and 195 percent respectively.
In the 1950s, McDonald's offered one size, a 2-ounce portion of French fries that contained 200 calories. Starting in 2004, the 2-ounce size was offered only on the kids' menu, and adults were offered a 7-ounce French fry serving with 610 calories. In 1997, Starbucks took the 8-ounce Short, its smallest size, off the menu when it introduced the 20-ounce Venti (the Extra Large). Now the 12-ounce Tall is the smallest choice. Larger portions are attractive to customers because the relative prices discourage the choice of smaller portions. How many times at the concession stand at the movies have you heard the vendor tell you that for a few cents more, you can get the next size up? Unfortunately, you are not just getting more value for your money; you are also getting more calories. A Coke and buttered popcorn combination has 688 calories, while a value pack (large Coke and buttered popcorn) has 2,174 calories (based on small popcorn serving size 5 cups; large popcorn serving size 20 cups; small Coke serving size 18 oz, large Coke serving size 44 oz).
Bigger portions are everywhere. At fast-food joints and convenience stores, the trend is hard to miss-7-Eleven offers the 48-ounce Double Gulp, and the muffins at Au Bon Pain are the size of softballs. Not only have food portions increased but, according to the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C., our plates have grown, too. The 10-inch plate was once the industry standard; now 12-inch plates are the norm. Servings are so big that in some restaurants you get two or three times more than you need. A typical meal at an ordinary restaurant contains 1,200 calories, and that's without the dessert or appetizer.
More calories equal more weight gain, pure and simple.
Larger restaurant portions have become an increased problem because Americans eat out more frequently than they used to. Twenty years ago, most people ate in restaurants only on special occasions. Today, the typical American eats out 4.5 times a week.
Larger portions have even entered our homes. Serving sizes in popular cookbooks, such as The Joy of Cooking, are getting "hearty" as well. In 1960, a brownie recipe in The Joy of Cooking yielded 30 brownies. Today, in its most current edition, the brownie recipe calls for exactly the same proportions as the original, but instead of the original 30-brownie yield, the recipe now yields only 16 brownies. That means each brownie is almost twice as big, with double the amount of calories as the original.
Even "diet" foods, including certain brands of frozen dinners, now come in larger sizes. For instance, in 1996, Stouffer's introduced a packaged food line called Lean Cuisine Hearty Portions that weighed 50 percent more than the original, and which of course had more calories.
The result of these larger portions is that Americans' conception of a serving has become skewed. Standard portion sizes recommended by the American Dietetic Association have become a thing of the past. Now when we are served a standard portion, it seems measly.
The greater the prevalence of obesity, the more alluring is the latest fad diet promising fast and easy weight loss. American dieters' eagerness to find the magic weight-loss bullet has led them from no-fat diets to high-protein diets. The problem now is that many Americans no longer know what they should be eating.
In 1981, Americans were introduced to Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution (Bantam). The diet was high-protein and high-fat with minimal carbohydrates. People lost weight but found a diet without carbohydrates difficult to maintain. In the late 1980s, studies from the American Heart Association reported that dietary fat increased the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Americans took this information to heart, banished fat from their diets, and entered the fat-free decade of the 1990s. The 1990s introduced Americans to fat-free cookies, cakes, chips, and every food imaginable that could be remade without fat.
Americans loved the concept of fat-free foods because, unlike other diets that made you count calories, eating fat-free meant no calorie watching. If a food was fat-free, that was the green light to dig in! Americans began eating large bagels (no cream cheese), bowls of pasta (no cream or oil, just tomato sauce) and large quantities of fat-free pastries from companies like SnackWell's and Entenmann's.
For breakfast, instead of two eggs and a piece of buttered toast (265 calories, 15 grams fat), a fat-free dieter opted for a 1,000-calorie fat-free muffin. And for a snack, instead of eating two 100-calorie Oreo cookies with 5 grams of fat, people would eat half a box of SnackWell's cookies, which contained 400 calories, and no fat. Although they were eating more calories, people assumed that, since there was no fat, they could get away with it. Wow, were they fooled!
Unfortunately, fat-free dieting led to more weight gain. By 1990, Americans were 6 percent heavier than a decade earlier. Calories appeared to be a major culprit. Despite the drop in fat intake, average calorie intake increased from 1,970 calories a day in 1978 to 2,200 in 1990.
Most fat-free product manufacturers replaced the fat in the recipes with sugar and starch. Many fat-free foods ended up with the same number of or even more calories than the full-fat original. And the biggest problem with eating fat-free foods is that a person never actually feels full or satisfied. That is because fat adds satiety to a meal. Without a little fat, you feel hungry soon after you finish eating. So people ate more, and eventually gained more weight. Once again, weight-conscious Americans were let down by another diet trend.
Trends come full circle. In response to the failure of fat-free diets, we returned to the high-fat, high-protein diets of the 1970s. The Atkins diet made a comeback, and low-carb foods quickly replaced all those now-condemned low-fat products on the supermarket shelves. We threw out the offending SnackWell's and replaced them with Atkins bars and Carb Smart ice cream. The late 1990s were spent eating steak, butter, bacon, and eggs. As long as there were no carbohydrates in a food, it was okay to eat it. Nevertheless, by the end of the '90s, despite cutting out carbohydrates, 64.5 percent of Americans were overweight, up from 44.8 percent in 1960.
The essential problem with diets is that people don't stay on them very long. The average weight-loss attempt is four weeks for women, six for men. So until you pick a way of eating that's going to last all your life, you haven't found the "right" diet.
How many of you have gone on a very low calorie diet for, say, two weeks and lost 5 to 10 pounds? Whether you chose the Scarsdale diet, the grapefruit diet, the cabbage soup diet, Slimfast, or Atkins, eventually you were bound to be disappointed. That's because diets are a temporary solution to a lifelong problem.
When people reach their weight loss goal, many go off their diet. The first thing they end up eating are the foods they felt most deprived of. If they were on Atkins, they might go for a bowl of pasta or a bagel with cream cheese. If they were on a low-fat diet, they dive into high-fat items like steak and French fries.
Returning to our old eating habits invites the weight to come back. Once the weight returns, you find yourself on a diet again a few weeks later. It is a vicious cycle:
The Ultimate Solution: Why the F-Factor Diet Is Different
The good news is that we finally have a permanent solution.
The F-Factor Diet is the last diet you will ever need. Now for the first time when you begin a diet, you won't be focusing on which foods you must omit. Instead you will consider the foods you need to add to your diet in order to lose weight and keep it off. And those foods are probably just the ones you've been so carefully avoiding these past few years-carbohydrates.
Copyright © 2007 by Tanya Zuckerbrot. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.